By Dale Smith
October 3, 2008 I loaded our 6 year-old Border Collie/Shetland Sheep Dog mix, Keegan, a tent, all other human and dog gear into our van and took off for a three hour drive from our home in Kansas City for our first camping/fly fishing trip together.
I was raised camping every weekend at Lake Pomme de Terre in Hickory County, Missouri. My parents started us in a roomy canvas cabin tent starting in about 1968. We graduated from the tent to a pop-up camper. Later, we switched to a motor home in high school. As I became an adult I started downsizing my camping gear to what I could carry on my back. All the while camping on weekends, taking two week vacations at the lake, traveling around the United States visiting state parks, national parks and monuments and visiting relatives where ever they may live. Even though I grew up with cats and dogs we traveled all of those miles and never went camping with a pet. My how times have changed.
Even though I have a lot of camping experience, a fly fishing trip with my dog had me a little nervous. None the less the van was packed and off we went to Roaring River State Park. Roaring River sits in a very narrow valley in southern Missouri and is known for its premier trout fishing. Rugged mountain-like terrain and a deep blue spring that pumps out 20 million gallons of water per day gives the river its 55°F water temperature and makes it ideal for camping and trout fishing.
Keegan and I arrived with no problems. Camp set up was no problem. I kept Keegan on a leash at first in order to follow Missouri state law which says:
Keep it to two pets or less per campsite. I was okay there.
Keep your pet on a leash (not longer than 10 feet) at all times.
I brought a 6 foot and 3 foot leash. But keep a Border Collie on a leash all of the time? That may be a problem; not for me but for the dog.
Keep you’re pet under control at all times and quiet. Do not leave a pet unattended. I soon discovered the “on leash at all times” wasn’t going to work for Keegan so I unattached the leashes from the post, leaving the three-foot leash attached to his collar and let him help me set up camp. There weren’t any problems – he stayed with me the whole time even with fly fisherman casting in the river 20 yards from us, cars going by, other campers walking their dogs, and not-so-quiet dogs running around. What the heck, the dogs were just being dogs.
Dinner time came and as I cooked in the screen tent, he had me throwing a ball or a Frisbee the whole time. I could see that any worries I had about him being hard to handle were unfounded. He was perfect. In fact most of the campers in 187 camp sites that walked by wanted to know what kind of dog he was and how was it that I could let him off his leash and he would not pay attention to any one but me?
The next morning brought the most challenging part of the trip. We were off to go fishing. With our fly rod and gear in hand, his equipment attached to my belt, we took off down stream to get away from the park and the other people around us. He followed me like he had done this before. The river was a little higher than usual so some of the areas we crossed were a bit deep for him (he hates to swim). None the less, there we were crossing the river in the shallows, hiking up the bank onto the trail when the river was too deep to cross. Meanwhile, I was fly fishing the entire time. I wasn’t catching anything, but I was having a great time relaxing and watching Keegan enjoy himself.
He was doing so well that I kind of became too relaxed. We were wading and crossing at one part in the river that was pretty swift. It wasn’t deep but it was slick. I walked across to a rock bar and he followed along with no problem. We started to go back the way we came and as I cast out I heard a splash behind me. I turned and saw Keegan broadsided by the current and was washed off the rocks and full on in the river. I dropped my fly rod and started running down stream towards him. My adrenalin kicked in and my heart started racing. He didn’t bark or make a sound. All I saw was him looking left and right trying to find a spot shallow enough to get his paws on the rocks so he could get to shore. In a matter of 15 yards he was able to get over to the shore and sit on the bank. The only problem was where he landed the water was up to my mid thigh. The water there was much too deep for him. I walked over, grabbed his collar and walked him along the bank until we found an area shallow enough for him to stand. He shook off most of the water that was on him and we continued on our journey.
Nighttime at camp was relatively uneventful. Good food for him and a meal for me. My cot and his bed mat were definitely inviting at the end of a long day.
My first “Daddy Doggie” fly fishing weekend went fairly well. The only mishap was because I wasn’t smart enough to have Keegan in a life vest when in the river. I will not make that mistake again.
If you get the chance to go on an outing with your pet, make sure you are prepared and know your pet. That will make your trip as pleasurable as mine was.
If you have a travel “tail” to tell, feel free to drop us a line. If you have a favorite hotel, motel, bed and breakfast, spa, resort or campground that is pet friendly let us know about it by emailing email@example.com.
If you would like more information about Roaring River or any of the Missouri State parks, log on to www.mostateparks.com.